by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — Maronite Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay has encouraged the Maronites in New Zealand to keep the faith and traditions of the Eastern Churches alive in their families and
In his first visit to the Maronite community in New Zealand, Bishop Tarabay also expressed
his gratitude to New Zealanders for welcoming his people.
“We feel that we are part of the national fabric of New Zealand and we are very grateful that this country has welcomed our people, who come from persecution, from situation of wars, from
situations where they can’t practise their faith, where they don’t have the religious freedom,” he said.
The Maronite Church is one of the largest Eastern-rite communities of the Catholic Church,
prominent especially in modern Lebanon.
Although the Maronite Church dates back to the fourth century, the Church in New Zealand
Bishop Tarabay said the Maronites here are not yet under his jurisdiction, but because he
was the closest bishop to them in this part of the world, he took the opportunity to meet the
congregation. The bishop was in Wellington for the Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania from May 12 to 16.
“I’m here to tell them that we didn’t forget them,” he said.
Bishop Tarabay also stressed the importance of keeping their identity as a people and as a
“We want them to teach their children about their faith and values andthe Maronite family. And
that they belong to the Church and, at the same time, belong to this country,” he said.
He said Catholic means universal, and they are living this universality now. “We are
living this dimension here in Australia and New Zealand, especially when we feel our Roman
Catholic brothers are very welcoming and very supportive of our mission. They are helping us to keep our identity as Eastern Churches and as Maronite Church,” he said.
The congregation of the Eastern Churches are mostly Lebanese, from the different denominations
of Maronite, Orthodox Antiochians and Melkites.
Fr Gerges Albutros, parish priest of the Melkite church of St Elias in Manurewa, was given
special permission by Melkite Bishop Robert Rabbat from Sydney to celebrate the Maronite
Mass with Bishop Tarabay.
“This church, St Elias, represents a great image of unity of the Church, where everyone is welcome, whatever denomination,” he said.
The Eastern Churches have the same dogma as the Roman Catholic Church, but the way they
celebrate Mass follows the Byzantine rite. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Tarabay mostly in Aramaic, with a little English.
Bishop Tarabay hoped the Church here will continue to live its traditions.
“I hope the church will continue to raise awareness about their identity, their rich history
and rich tradition when it comes to the life of faith,” he said.